Golan Heights 311.
(photo credit: Joe Yudin)
Joe Yudin owns Touring Israel, a company that specializes in “Lifestyle” tours of Israel.
Between 1948 and 1967 the Syrian military sat atop the Golan Heights and
on the shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), looking down at Israel
in the valley below. In 1964, the Syrians began work on canals to divert
the water sources of the north away from the Kinneret and by the end of
May 1967, the Syrians had moved the bulk of their forces to the borders
of Israel and their leaders were openly boasting of Israel’s eminent
destruction in the press.
In a bold move, the government and IDF
decided to strike back, and in two days captured the Golan Heights. Some
of the fiercest fighting of the Six Day War occurred on the Golan
From Tiberias take Route 90 north, pass Rosh Pina and
turn right at Mahanayim Junction onto Route 91. Once you pass Mishmar
HaYarden you are over the 1949 cease-fire lines, that were in theory a
demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel between 1949 and 1967.
Continue down this road into the Jordan River Valley and check out the
bunkers and pillboxes used to defend against Syrian attacks before 1967.
Pass Kibbutz Gadot on your left. This community suffered thousands of
bombs during the dark days between 1948 and 1967. Cross the Jordan River
and check out the ruins of the crusader bridge, fortress and convent as
you drive through the switchbacks.
Three kilometers to the east of
the river, before Beit HaMeches Junction is a turn off to the left for
Mitzpeh Gadot (Gadot Overlook) where you should park.
you walk up to the triangular memorial on the paved path, notice the
Syrian bunkers, trenches and fortifications as this was once a Syrian
base on the front with Israel. Stay on the path as there are landmines
in the area. The memorial is supposed to evoke images of an Israeli bomb
shelter as the constant Syrian bombardment of Israeli civilians made
them live in shelters for many years. It also reminds us of the climb
that the soldiers of the 33rd Battalion had to make during the battle,
through a minefield, in order to capture this position. Check out the
names of the fallen engraved here and continue to the overlook of the
Continue east on Route 91 to HaShiryon Junction
and make a left on road 978. Continue to Gov Ga’ash Junction and turn
right on road 9799. Take that to the end and make a left on Route 98 and
a quick right on an unmarked road with a sign directing you to the
memorial site of OZ 77 and the Valley of Tears.
orchards and vineyards and continue to the site which overlooks Syria
and the city of Kenetra. Park in the lot and walk out to the memorial.
the Russian mage T-65 Syrian tank with the hole in its turret. This
tank had broke through the Israeli lines but was destroyed where it
stands. Avigdor Kahalani, commander of the tank battalion nicknamed OZ
77 (the Brave 77) after this battle commanded 68 tanks before the battle
here that began on Yom Kippur in 1973. He and his men fought some 600
Syrian tanks here for three days without food, water, sleep and in the
end only a few shells of ammunition.
Syrians had the latest Russian tanks with night vision, something the
Israelis did not have. At the end of the battle Kahalani had six tanks
left but led a charge down the hill to fight off the remaining Syrians
knowing that the reserves had yet to come to the battle and if the
Syrians broke through his position it was a quick dash into the Galilee.
The Syrians, tired, hungry and rattled, retreated despite the
overwhelming numbers. Check out some of the destroyed tanks from both
sides scattered among the battlefield as well as the memorial to the
soldiers who died here made up from pieces of the destroyed tanks. On
your way out, visit the movie theater at Kibbutz El Rom and see the
fantastic movie with real war footage and interviews with Kahalani and
his men. Do not miss it.
Go south on Route 98, right on road 959 and left at Bental Junction.
Pass Kibbutz Merom Golan, or stop briefly for lunch at the Kosher Cowboy
Ranch for a bite or a horseback riding excursion, and then make a left
up the extinct volcano of Mt. Bental. This is a decommissioned IDF base.
The views into Syria, Mount Hermon, the Jordan Valley, the UN
peacekeeping base and the Syrian city of Kenetra are spectacular. Make
sure to explore the bunkers and descend into the belly of the mountain
which was where the IDF soldiers lived.Joe Yudin
became a licensed tour guide in 1999. He completed his Master’s degree
at the University of Haifa in the Land of Israel Studies and is
currently studying toward a PhD